The third Saturday in July will find MMA‘s top promotion, the UFC, in the midst of a full summer of action. This is something that the promotion’s broadcast television partner, ABC, seeks to take advantage of that afternoon with UFC on ABC 3 from the UBS Arena in Elmont, NY, the home ice of the NHL‘s New York Islanders.
The Featherweights Do Battle in UFC on ABC 3 Main Event
UFC on ABC 3 will be headlined on the afternoon of July 16 by a featherweight confrontation between two of the weight class’ top combatants.
No. 2 contender Brian Ortega (15-2-0 1 NC 7-2-0 1 NC UFC) will collide with No. 3 contender Yair Rodriguez (13-3-0 1 NC 8-2, 1 NC UFC) in the UFC on ABC 3 main event, an advertised maximum of five rounds at five minutes per round to bring a close to the day’s action on Long Island.
Could UFC on ABC’s Ratings Woes Continue with UFC on ABC 3?
However, with the two previous UFC on ABC cards during 2021, there was a troubling statistic that soured what were otherwise great shows: Low numbers in the Nielsen ratings caused by both UFC on ABC 1 and UFC on ABC 2 airing opposite noteworthy sporting events on other networks the days of the cards.
Could UFC on ABC 3 suffer the same problem, despite a summer date for the card? To best illustrate this point, we have to go back in time almost a year and a half to the afternoon of Jan. 16, 2021, the day of UFC on ABC 1 from Fight Island (Etihad Arena, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.)
While the main event that winter’s day was a smashing success for Max Holloway, then the No. 1 featherweight contender, scoring 445 total strikes to just 79 for his opponent, Calvin Kattar, who was the No. 6 contender heading into that fight, the same could not have been said for the ratings for UFC on ABC 1.
NFL on FOX Scores Touchdown in Nielsen Ratings, Leaving UFC on ABC 1 in the Dust
At around 4:30 pm ET that Saturday, the UFC’s previous television partner, FOX Sports, presented the first game of the 2020-2021 NFC Divisional Playoffs, a contest between the No. 6 seed, the Los Angeles Rams and the No. 1 seed, the Green Bay Packers from one of the NFL‘s most hallowed stadiums, Lambeau Field.
It was a banner day for the Packers that afternoon and early evening as Aaron Rodgers and his men sent the Rams back to California, winning 32-18.
There’s no denying that the Packers were the big winners in that playoff game, but FOX Sports was the bigger winner, as an estimated 26 million viewers watched the football game, making Rams/ Packers that day’s most-watched show.
Comparatively, figures from Jan. 16, 2021’s UFC on ABC 1 showed that the promotion’s first event on broadcast television in more than two years was screened by 1.22 million viewers in the crucial demographic of adults aged 18-to-49.
As the undercard that day was exclusive to ESPN+, no ratings figures were accessible for that portion of the card.
Timeslot Woes For UFC on ABC 1 Contribute To Low Ratings
One aspect that contributed to UFC on ABC 1’s poor showing in the Nielsens was its timeslot. The undercard of UFC on ABC 1 (as well as that of UFC on ABC 2) began at noon ET, ahead of a 3 pm ET main card.
On Jan. 16, 2021, the FOX pregame coverage of Rams/ Packers began at 2:30 pm ET with a special Saturday edition of FOX NFL Kickoff, the lead-in for FOX NFL Sunday, spilling over into the UFC window on ABC.
Having to go up against NFL coverage, especially in a playoff game, is always going to be a tough sell, and on that day, the UFC got tackled behind the line of scrimmage.
Second Verse, Same as the First For UFC on ABC 2
In April of 2021, the UFC returned to ABC for UFC on ABC 2, and this time around, the famed Octagon welcomed network television viewers to the UFC Apex, again with a 3 pm ET timeslot.
In that afternoon’s main event, Kevin Holland, then the No. 10 contender at middleweight, accepted a short-notice confrontation against Marvin Vettori, who was the No. 6 contender heading into the fight.
It was a record-breaking headliner for Vettori, who converted 11 successful takedowns on 16 attempts, setting the high mark in that category for a middleweight fight. Although Marvin Vettori emerged victorious that Saturday, ratings took a dive.
UFC on ABC 2 Ratings Dip Below 1 Million Viewers
UFC on ABC 2’s main card on April 10, 2021 saw a drop in the Nielsen ratings from UFC on ABC 1.
Statistics from the ABC card last spring read that UFC on ABC 2 finished with 859,000 viewers, while the ESPN prelims netted 377,000 viewers from noon to 3 pm ET.
The UFC’s chief opposition that spring afternoon was third-round coverage of The Masters on CBS.
Even though play was temporarily halted due to a storm in the vicinity of Augusta National Golf Club during the broadcast window, The Masters telecast did much better than the fights, being watched by 5.18 million viewers that Saturday.
Since then, the UFC has stayed off of network television, but that changes on July 16 with UFC on ABC 3.
UFC on ABC 3 Ratings Potentially Aided by Summer Date
On New Year’s Eve, Overtime Heroics ran a column regarding the future of the UFC on ABC series, and in this column, one of the solutions presented to correct the ratings issue was holding a card on any summer Saturday.
Come July 16, UFC on ABC 3 will be the first summer event in the UFC on ABC series. One would think, at the very least, that a July 16 date for UFC on ABC 3 would be beneficial for the ratings, given that there are fewer options for sports fans to watch on TV in the summertime.
Aside from Big 3 basketball and Major League Soccer, the UFC’s chief competitor this time of year is Major League Baseball.
Although holding UFC on ABC 3 might be helpful in the ratings, the figures will tell all after July 16. Whether or not the viewers watch this card in big numbers is up to the viewers themselves.
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